With Election Day rapidly approaching, anxiety stricken voters are struggling to make peace with those across the isle. Author Mark Gerzon delivered an insightful lecture on Tuesday at the University of Denver speaking about how we can bridge the partisan divide no matter who wins the election.
Now more than ever, negative views of the opposing party have created a deep entrenchment of political partisanship. Forty-nine percent of republicans say democrats makes them feel afraid while 58% say they feel frustrated. The numbers on the other side aren’t much better. Fifty-five percent of democrats say that the Republican Party makes them feel afraid while 58% say they feel frustrated.
This political hostility is exactly what Gerzon is working to overcome. In his lecture on Tuesday, Gerzon encouraged the room full of political optimists to look beyond their political affiliations.
“America isn’t just red or blue”, Gerzon explained. “We are a technicolored nation”. The highly engaging speaker often eluded to Einstein in finding ways to discuss competing worldviews to find innovative solutions.
While the lecture was centered on the political environment, Gerzon did not necessarily talk about issues, the election, or the candidates. Rather the lecture was surrounded on the idea of unity. Gerzon aimed to give a hopeful vision of the future of partisan politics.
“There are scores of organizations and initiatives that bridge the divide and will welcome you”, Gerzon said. “They will enrich your civic life and bring you a greater sense of purpose and patriotism”.
Appropriately, the event was hosted by the University of Denver’s Conflict Resolution Institute. This institute is encompasses nine academic programs and five different schools to develop the theory, research, and practice of conflict resolution. Gerzon is a part of the institutes guest lecture series and has spent most of his career has focusing on conflict resolution.
The lecture was held in the SIE International Studies Complex where a small podium stood in front of giant glass windows of the newly constructed building. The turnout was larger than anticipated as many people were left standing along the back or off to the sides. It seemed that political unity is on the minds of many voters this year, young and old.
“This election is complete chaos,” Says 54 year old audience member Alan Greg. “and this conversation is extremely important, especially for young people who want to make any progress in government”.
While most of the audience seemed to be over thirty-five, and many much older than thirty-five, there were a handful of engaged college students that lined the back wall and a few more scattered throughout the audience. Gerzon spoke directly to how these millennials may have immense impact in the movement.
“The millennial generation is breaking out of the “red-blue” mindset and expanding the meaning of freedom,” said Gerzon.
Surely, millennials are less politically affiliated than generations have been in the past. In fact, half of millennials identify as independent. While this generation has a great potential to narrow the political gap, Gerzon noted that college’s party affiliate clubs like “DU Dems” and “DU Republicans” educate students in the wrong way.
“Why are there Republican and Democratic Clubs on campuses that train the next generation to repeat the problem of their parents?” Gerzon asked.
Mark Gerzon has worked in both the public and private sector both nationally and abroad. Apart from being an author, he is also a leadership expert and a veteran convener of cross-party conversations. He is also a longtime friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Gerzon has written three books including his most recent “The Reunited States of America: How we can bridge the partisan divide”, where he explores the issue of political unity.